While most of us were busy opening gifts over the holiday break, the Chaminade-Julienne girls basketball team opened a can of something on the high school girls basketball scene.
On Dec. 28 and 29, the Eagles competed in the T-Mobile Invitational Tournament at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., and finished 1-1. C-J lost to Long Beach (Calif.) Poly 67-61 in the semis and beat Gallup, N.M. 60-48 in the consolation finals. Poly, the two-time defending California state champion, is No. 4 in the USA Today national rankings. Gallup is No. 1 in New Mexico.
Both games aired live to a nationwide audience on the Versus network.
“From a team standpoint (the trip) was an ‘A,’” C-J coach Marc Greenberg said in an interview following the game. “Long Beach Poly was a team similar to us and (Gallup) had five players around the perimeter. We’ll see all that come tournament time.”
Teams may not want to see C-J (8-1) in February and March.
The Eagles are powered by three Division I recruits in seniors Tiera Stephen (Louisville), Rachel Chandler (Central Connecticut State) and India Warfield (St. Louis), but the program’s next superstar has emerged in sophomore standout Samarie Walker. A 6-foot-1 guard/forward, Walker dominated the competition at the T-Mobile Invite.
Walker had 18 points and 13 rebounds in the loss to Poly and added 21 points, 21 rebounds and six assists in the win over Gallup. At one point in the contest, Gallup had 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists, while Walker had 14, 11 and two, respectively.
Walker's 21 rebounds were a single-game record for the event as was her two-game total of 34.
Said Greenberg: “You can see the potential.”
Below we take a look a look at a program that has become one of the country’s premiere squads over the last decade. The Eagles have six state finals appearances in the last 10 years (three titles) and have sent three players to the WNBA.
The following is a feature written by Alex Sator that appears in the Jan/Feb issue of the Miami Valley Sports Magazine.
BIG TIME: C-J CONTINUES TO WRITE GIRLS BASKETBALL HISTORY
DAYTON – For most of the players in Chaminade-Juliene’s storied third floor gymnasium, practice was over. They sat in a circle on the floor, waiting for rides and talking quietly. Meanwhile, head coach Marc Greenberg was still working at the far end giving individual skills instruction to three point guards.
The drill was simple but intense. Staying low the whole time, the girls would advance the ball up the court. First right-handed and then left-handed, they would retreat a couple of steps for every five or so they took, always facing forward while maintaining ball control and a high tempo.
Tiera Stephen was first. One of three C-J players to sign a letter of intent to play at a Division I school next season, she moved effortlessly up the floor. Even the most casual observer could visualize her slicing up zone pressure easily in real game situations.
Afterwards, Greenberg was intense. She could have stayed lower. She could have done the drill quicker. She should never be satisfied.
His star pupil, who will attend Louisville on a full-ride in the fall, quietly soaked it all in.
Tyesha Jones, a junior point guard, was very good at the drill as well. Her stature suited the exercise and she kept the ball low, moving in space with ease. You could tell that she is next in a long line of fine C-J point guards.
Greenberg had some thoughts to share with her as well.
Emily Micheals went last. A little overwhelmed by the drill and the company that she was keeping, Emily appeared to be thinking about everything she did, rather than playing instinctively. She was quick and low, but easily rattled. Yet, that really shouldn’t be surprising.
Michaels is just an eighth-grader. Greenberg was planting seeds that might generate fruit for his program later. Planning for the future is just part of what an accomplished basketball coach does.
“A lot of what we teach with the point guard position I would consider to be unique,” the coach said after practice. “It takes a lot of time to grasp. I try to at least introduce it to some of our younger kids. Emily has run the point for our feeder team for a couple of years, so I thought this was a good opportunity to bring her in and let her work on those skills.
“We’re not a public school, so typically we don’t know who is going to be coming in. If a kid is playing at one of our feeder schools we will try to bring them in to expose them to various aspects of the game.
“We run camps in the summer for the same reason. We try to plan but we also know that we might have to adapt as well. A public school might say that we get kids we didn’t know that we would get, but I would say that we don’t get to work with them to the extent that they do. It works both ways.”
This is CJ’s second year in the GGCL-Grey division. Before that they were always independents. Last year they were 17-7 and won the Division I district championship, losing in the regional semifinals to Dublin-Scioto – undefeated and ranked No. 1 at the time – by just a basket.
“It was a bit of an adjustment as we learned how to play in a league,” Greenberg laughed. “We were always independents, so we weren’t used to playing teams two times a year. Our goal has always been the same whether we were independents or in a league. The twenty games of the regular season are to prepare us to play our best basketball in late February.
“We do play a tough schedule. A couple of years ago my AD asked me if I wanted to schedule another one like this and I said, ‘Sure! Why not?’ That year we went 12-11 and we still played in the District final, and I think it was because of our schedule.”
This year that schedule will be even tougher as they have been invited to play in the T-Mobile Invitational in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sponsored by the National Association of High Schools, the Versus network has the television contract and only four girls teams are invited.
The tournament will feature Long Beach Poly (No. 4 according to USA Today); Hampton Virginia (No. 16 by USA Today); Gallup, New Mexico (the top team out of New Mexico); and C-J.
“It’s the second year for the event and we are excited,” Greenberg offered. “We were looking for some good games and I guess we found them. The girls play Long Beach Poly on the 28th at 11 a.m. Mountain Time. I’m thinking they’ll do just fine.”
Rachel Chandler is a smooth shooting guard for C-J and recently accepted a full-ride to play at Central Connecticut State University.
“Most of us wanted to come to C-J since we were little because we saw the success that they had,” Chandler said. “We were like; ‘We want to go there. We want to be champions as well.’ The education is great, but we wanted to play in a program that is very, very tough.”
“After years and years of playing in AAU (Dayton Lady Hoop Stars under John Coffee the last two years, before that the Dayton Lady Airmen), as we got up to our junior year scouts started coming to the games. To be honest, I’ve only known the coaches at Connecticut since September. Colorado, South Florida, and Kent State were interested in me from the beginning.
“I came from Mary Hope of Christians, which is a feeder school of Carroll,” the senior guard continued. “Other players came from other situations. Everyone comes in with a strong work ethic and we never have problems. Everyone works as one unit, if for no other reason than Coach Greenberg wouldn’t put up with anything less. He tells us that he loves us, and we believe it although sometimes it is hard. He yells at us a lot, but we know that it is for our own good.”
Greenberg thought that was funny.
“I don’t work at C-J but I’m told that when I show up they will text each other so they can scurry and hide,” the coach laughed. “Some days they like me, other days not so much, but most of the time I believe that they do.”
“I don’t think you’ll ever find a kid more passionate about basketball than Rachel Chandler. If you watch us on tape, every single great play that is made you will find her jumping up and down whether she was involved or not. You see her smile and how much fun she is having out there and it is just great to coach her.
“Anything she is asked to do Rachel will try to do. She came here as a great shooter and an offensive player and has become one of our best defenders. If you have a kid that you don’t want to have the ball then Rachel is the one to put on them. She can lock a player down.”
C-J is also blessed to have a strong post presence in India Warfield.
“I think of India as a quiet assassin out there,” Greenberg said bouncing a ball rhythmically against the floor. “She isn’t flashy and she doesn’t get the press that other kids do. All she does is put the ball in the hole. It isn’t textbook. There isn’t a way to teach what she does. All of a sudden she goes up-and-under or scoops it and the ball finds a way to get through the net.
“She didn’t make varsity as a freshman and she never showed us any glimpses of what she would become. Then her sophomore year she broke out. She was injured a lot last year, but soon teams are going to find out what a great finisher she is.”
India plans to major in pre-med on a full-ride to St. Louis University next fall.
“They saw me playing with Midwest Express (AAU). Kalien Reid played with Midwest, too, and she will be playing with me at St. Louis. Working with coach Greenberg is intense. You always know that when you walk on the court it is not going to be easy. You can’t just slide. He makes you work for everything you get.”
Stephen appreciates her coach’s efforts, too.
“One thing that took us a while to understand is that, outside of basketball, he really cares for us. He has a young family at home and he takes time from them to coach us. He cares for us individually, from the best player on the team to the people that seldom get in the games.
“I love C-J. You can get a strong Catholic education here. That is what attracted me the most. But, Chaminade-Julienne also has a big basketball tradition. It started with Tamika, Megan Duffy, and Brandie Hoskins. It’s the kind of tradition that you just want to keep building by making your own mark.”
Stephen played on the Dayton Airmen (AAU) with Chandler but for the last two years has been playing with Cincinnati’s Finest. She played middle school ball in Trotwood.
“We’re a very humble team,” Stephen offered. “We’re not stars. I hate it when people come up in the hall and start asking questions. We’re grateful for the attention but we have to stay humble because it reflects on the program and our traditions. For me and Rachel and India it is all about the team and winning the state.
This group doesn’t lack self-confidence.
“We dedicated this year to working hard,” Stephen continued. “No other school has the talent that we have – solid – at all five positions. So, we work hard. We have the talent to be great but we have to put it all together. We need to play defense and we need to work hard.”
What about some of these tough teams on the schedule like Mt. Notre Dame?
“We’ll see. Yeah. You can come to the game on January 6, I believe? I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun. But, really, we don’t look ahead to games. We play the game that is next on the schedule. Our coach told us today that we need to take things one game at a time. A winner never takes any games for granted. That is exactly what we will do.”
“It all starts with the type of people that they are, and they are all great kids,” Greenberg added. “Tiera is the fun-loving comedienne of the team. She’s a leader and the kids respect her, not only on the court, but also off the court. She’ll end up being a great leader no matter what she goes into.
“Tiera has been a game changer since the moment she first came here with her defense. There are very few guards that can change a game with her defense and she is one of them. She has developed her offensive game and that is a testament to her work ethic. She runs the team. I think that says a lot because I think that was unnatural for her when she first got here.”
C-J has many other fine players jockeying for playing time. Shene Flemming, for example, is a versatile junior who is as tough on the perimeter as she is on the block. Samarie Walker, a sophomore who is already generating interest on the Division I level, leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.
“We have lots of good kids and we are proud of what they have accomplished both on the court and in the community,” Greenberg smiled.
“When the seniors had their signing it wasn’t just the basketball players that were there. Their friends and family were there along with their teachers and administrators. It’s all about what C-J is trying to do. We’re trying to get them to achieve life long goals.”